Firefighters express concern over inconsiderate bonfires during pandemic

30th April

A bonfire

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is asking members of the public to consider their neighbours’ health and urging them to not light bonfires.

With the majority of people at home all day, garden bonfires are becoming more common. However burning garden waste can mean smoke drifts into other people’s gardens and homes. People also risk being fined up to £5,000 by their local authority.

The Fire Service is particularly concerned about how this will affect people who may already be struggling to breathe because of Covid 19 symptoms.

Instead gardeners are asked to either wait for recycling centres to re-open or to use clippings to create compost heaps.

Since the 23 March when lockdown began, crews have been called to six bonfires in this Heathfield area – double the number for the same period last year.

Rather than burning it, people are asked to get rid of their household or garden waste by composting or recycling it.

You could be fined if you light a fire and allow the smoke to drift across the road and become a danger to traffic. Your council can issue an ‘abatement notice’ if a neighbour’s bonfire is causing a nuisance although a bonfire must happen frequently to be considered a nuisance.

Meanwhile the Fire Service says it is working hard to continue to keep its communities safe during the Covid19 outbreak and with more people staying at home, the service is asking everyone to be extra careful and avoid fires happening in the first place.

  • If you’re at home because you’re ill or self-isolating, please take extra care if you’re cooking. Most house fires start in the kitchen. Always ‘Look while you cook’.
  • Switch off any electrical items you’re not using.
  • If you use a charger, for a phone or laptop for example, don’t leave it plugged in and switched on when you’re asleep or not using it.
  • And if you use a portable heater, remember not to put it close to things that could easily catch fire, like bedding, clothes, soft furnishings or curtains.
  • If you smoke, be extra vigilant. Keep matches and lighters away from children, and double check that your cigarette is properly extinguished. Try not to smoke if you’ve been drinking alcohol, and avoid smoking in bed or if you’re feeling sleepy. If you can do so safely, smoke outdoors.

To reduce the risk to the public and firefighters special virtual “visits” are carried out over the phone during which fire officers can talk to people about the fire risk in their home.

  • If you would like to find out more about a Home Safety Visit, you can call 0800 177 7069 or complete and return a Home Safety Visit Request Form, which should be sent to 

During the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19) it is also important for businesses to continue carrying out duties relating to fire safety in their premises.

Firefighters remain ready to respond to emergencies 24/7 but stations closed to visitors to help reduce the chances of crews coming into contact with the virus.